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FOIA Transparency… It Shouldn’t Be An Oxymoron

Yesterday, circulated a letter endorsing the OPEN FOIA Act (S.2746). CDT was one of the 29 organizations that signed on to the letter. As Sophia noted during Sunshine Week this year, the bill is a short one but would be very helpful in preserving the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.

There are many ways that FOIA could be improved, but sadly it’s easier for legislators to carve out new exceptions than it is to enhance the Act. These exceptions can be broad, vague, and hard to find. The OPEN FOIA Act would require FOIA exemptions to be clearly written into legislation, and require that the criteria for the exceptions be clearly defined or that the exception clearly reference FOIA. This will help us, and other advocates of government openness, find proposed FOIA exceptions and foster debate about their necessity before they become law.

Of course, that we need to legislate transparency around something called the “Freedom of Information Act” is   like a line in a comedy sketch from the late George Carlin.